Tuesday, January 20, 2009

We've come a ways




Anyone else surprised at the depth of emotion you're feeling right now about this inauguration? As I watched the televised images of the crowds on the National Mall early this morning, saw the joy on their faces and the waving of the small American flags in their hands, tears came. I didn't expect that. I've never cried about such sights before. I wondered where that feeling came from.

Then I remembered. It came from a scene in my Memphis front yard in 1956. It's one of my earliest memories and I am not proud of it. My 4-year-old self stood behind a tree with a neighbor playmate and watched an African American lady walk down the sidewalk. As she passed us we yelled out, "Nigger!"

My parents were prejudiced but they would not have condoned such behavior. They weren't confrontational about their biases. Had they been within earshot of my act they would certainly have shushed me quickly. As it was, it took living through the sixties, education and a modicum of maturity to eventually hush the ugly hate that had been planted in my impressionable psyche almost from birth.

So, no, I'm not proud of what I did to that lady walking down the block of blue-collar white households on that day fifty-some-odd years ago. But I am proud of the fact that I can now feel the joy of this most meaningful moment in my country's recent history. I am proud of the hope I feel for our future. And I'm proud of America. To have seen this country move from a time when an African American couldn't walk down a street without a 4-year-old white child swearing hatefully at them to a day when an African American is sworn in as our nation's president, that is what brings tears.

7 comments:

Anonymous said...

Thank you for that moving memory. It brings to mind that South Pacific song, "You've Got to Be Carefully Taught." I too had tears in my eyes this morning.
Nancy

'wela said...

I've personally never used that word, and I now hope it dies.

Hope. Isn't that a lovely word?

I'm very proud today, too. And I love the cartoon.

Anonymous said...

Yes! I too cried when I saw the events of today. When I got home from work and saw political cartoons on my computer, my first thought was, "I wish Richard Crowson was still drawing for the Eagle." And then I realized I could look you up! Thanks for the wonderful cartoon. You are still one of the best around.

Anonymous said...

Nice piece, Richard and nice cartoon. The last few days I've been thinking, "Gosh I'm really going to miss seeing a Crowson cartoon in the Eagle. He'd do something memorable with respect to Obama and the inauguration.

A loss for the Eagle, but good for us that you have this website and didn't let us down in the cartoon department. I too have been surprised at the depth of my emotion (and the tears) watching the festivities yesterday. I am so proud of Barack Obama and once again have high hopes for this country, its president and his administration.

Thanks for the cartoon and what you shared, Richard.

Anonymous said...

Hope is indeed the key for this new administration. When was the last time you felt anything less than despair watching the day to day or the last yahoo that was steering this ship down the commode. If the ship can be righted, we have the captain for the job.

MBR Seattle said...

Richard,

I understand completely, having spent a portion of my youth in Atlanta in a white neighborhood and predjudical parents.

Life has gotten so much better this week. It feels like a weigh has been taken off my shoulders, especially when President Obama (I love saying that!) called out the previous administration for govening in secret and taking away our constitutional freedoms. I no longer have to hang my head as an American!

This president is a good man with a terrific agenda. God speed!

Linda said...
This comment has been removed by the author.